What Inspires Me Most

July 26, 2014 / by / 0 Comment

For most of my life, I’ve always believed I know my grandfather well. I understand the kind of man he is, I know what he values and what he loves. A few summers ago, though, I was sitting in his library combing insipidly through shelves of books, when I came across a peculiar shelf. I was taken aback by what I found – vinyl after vinyl of gramophone records. My grandfather has an amazing record collection, from classic Elvis vinyls to classic Japanese operas.

Finding this collection unveiled his clandestine passion, and taught me a little more about him. My grandfather is an avid traveller, and his employment with the United Nations has carried him around the world. Everywhere he went, he bought vinyl records (wherever he could find them, anyway). The records from his collection span across the globe, and each record has a special story, with its own unique sentimental value.

Since then, I’ve grown fascinated with what people “collect”. Every ordinary object carries its own exclusive history; every individual has their own reason or story for collecting the objects that they do. And every different collection I’ve ever come across inspires me.

An old English Literature professor of mine buys a new copy of “Lolita”, by Vladimir Nabokov every time she comes across the book with a different cover (apparently, the book has over 150 different covers…). She said that as a child, her mother instructed her not to read Lolita – it was “far too inappropriate for a young girl”. For her, collecting the books was an early form of rebellion, but now it’s grown into her fond habit.

A close friend of mine has a modest collection of hotel key cards from just about every hotel she can remember, and her father owns a collection of 36 bottles of soil, with each soil sample from a different city around the world. Both of them love to travel together, and building up their collections has become a sacred family tradition.

And my eight-year-old little sister is a passionate and proud collector of seashells. Malaysia, Australia, the USA – it’s become an understood law in our family that no matter where we are, if there’s a beach nearby, we go hunting for seashells. Of course, it goes without saying, that every seasoned collector (regardless of their age…) will be fastidious with his or her findings. When she was four, my sister would hunt absent-mindedly for the biggest shells she could find…but the years have matured her taste. Now, every shell we pick has to be unique in its shape, its color and its texture. If a seashell looks anything like another she already owns, it will be rejected. And if taking shells or corals from a particular beach would possibly “harm the environment”, she won’t think of picking it up. Her precision is extraordinary.

Dice, coins, stamps, feathers, chess pieces, cassette tapes, violin bows, polaroid photographs…I’ve seen some extremely special collections over the years. Each individual object has its own narrative. Now, pitted against my own life, the feather of an eagle who has flown over mountains, rivers, lakes, and treetops I can only dream of seeing, has a history far more intriguing than my own. And so, finding beauty in the most average item is absolutely inspiring. The people who own these collections have already found beauty in ordinary things which I may I disregard every day. Their collections define them. The objects these collectors find beautiful can tell one so much about the collectors themselves. Collectors are inspired by their collections, and I am inspired by both.

Now personally, I don’t own any real collections. I have a meagre number of snow-globes, a big box of pressed flowers, and a (rather pathetic) set of dried up paintbrushes, but none of those really count for anything. Perhaps I’m still waiting for a day where I see an ordinary thing, and find it unexplainably beautiful. But till then, I guess you could say I’m simply waiting to be a little more inspired.

Photo Credits: Pinterest 

In the comments below, tell us what inspires you! What’s your take on this quintessential essay question?